Civil rights activist seeks to prove anti-terrorism law a violation of free speech
Ralph Fertig, a 79-year-old professor who has fought for civil rights most of his life, wants to be a public advocate for the oppressed Kurdish minority in Turkey.
He's worried the US government, which calls the group a terrorist organization, will throw him in prison for 15 years as a collaborator.
So Fertig has challenged the law as the lead plaintiff in a case the Supreme Court will hear early next week.
Specifically, Fertig is challenging a 1996 provision in the Patriot Act that allows long prison terms for anyone for helps or advocates for terrorist groups in any way. According to government lawyers, the law not only prevents "training" or "assistance" to terrorists, but also the filing of a legal brief or writing an op-ed essay on behalf of a designated terrorist group.
Fertig says all he wants to do is teach Turkish Kurds the philosophies of non-violent protest he practiced as a civil rights activist in the '60s.